Who will be the best receiver on the field?
Similar to USC’s contest against Cal last week, Saturday’s game features a wealth of talent at the wide receiver position. USC sophomore Robert Woods and Notre Dame junior Michael Floyd are among some of the best wide receivers in the country.
Woods looks to rebound after catching only 5 passes for 36 yards last week. He drew double teams the entire game against Cal and was unable to break free often. Nevertheless, he averages 13.1 yards per catch for the season. Notre Dame junior Michael Floyd has hauled in four touchdowns and 12.1 yards per catch. Both figure to pose a serious threat to the opposing secondaries that have had their fair share of struggles throughout the year.
USC also hopes Marqise Lee can contribute to the aerial attack. The freshman, who has drawn heavy praise from USC head coach Lane Kiffin, sustained an injury while scoring a touchdown against Cal. He told reporters during the week that he expects to be at 80 percent of full strength.
Can USC handle Notre Dames balance?
Notre Dame has done an excellent job of achieving balance in its offensive scheme. The Irish rank 29th nationally in both rushing and passing yards. Quarterback Tommy Rees, who beat USC a year ago, has run the offense rather efficiently since replacing Dayne Crist. The balance will keep USC on its heels. Against Cal, The Trojans stacked the box and forced the Golden Bears to throw. USC will not be able to overly commit to the run or pass because the Irish can deftly utilize both. USC’s defense is coming off of a stellar performance against Cal. In addition to forcing numerous turnovers, the defense held stout against the run, pressured the quarterback, and blanketed receivers.
Who will win the turnover battle?
Early in the year, both Notre Dame and USC ranked in the bottom quartile for turnover margin, but both teams have seen some improvement in recent weeks. Notre Dame still ranks 110th nationally. However, the Irish are even in turnover margin over the course of their current four-game winning streak. USC ranks 78th nationally in turnover margin after recording five takeaways against California. The five forced turnovers equaled the amount of turnovers USC created in its first five games.
How will USC fare in the running game?
Through the first six games, USC has struggled to consistently run the ball. Notre Dame allows 136 yards per game on the ground, so there is a chance the Trojans can find a steady rhythm. Redshirt senior Marc Tyler hopes to return after dislocating the back of his shoulder last week at Cal. It appears that Curtis McNeal will get the start for the Trojans. The shifty back has shown bursts of speed in limited action.